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Media & App Developers

This project has a range of information that will be of interest to the children’s media industry and app developers. It offers in-depth findings about pre-schoolers’ use of tablets and has identified those principles of apps that promote play and creativity.

This project was a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, the BBC children’s television channel CBeebies, children’s television production company Foundling Bird, development studio and consultancy company Dubit and Monteney Primary School, Sheffield.

The aims of the study were to examine pre-school children’s use of apps on tablets and identify how far apps for pre-school children (aged 0-5), including apps that incorporate augmented reality, promote play and creativity. The objectives of the study were as follows:

  • To collect information about UK preschool children's access to and use of apps in the home.
  • To identify the most popular apps for pre-school children and develop an understanding of the extent to which these promote play and creativity.
  • To identify the factors that currently inform parents’/ caregivers’ choices of apps for this age group.
  • To examine the impact of apps (including augmented reality apps) on the play and creativity of pre-school children.
  • To identify the affordances of apps that are particularly successful in promoting young children’s play and creativity in order to inform: (i) future app development by the children’s media industry and (ii) the future choices of apps for young children by parents/ caregivers and early years educators.
  • To increase dialogue and promote knowledge exchange between academics, children's media industry, parents/ caregivers and early years educators with regard to pre-school children’s use of apps.

In Phase 1 of the study, 2000 parents of children aged 0-5 who had access to tablets completed an online survey.

Phase 2 consisted of case studies conducted of six families with children aged from birth to five. Five visits were made to each family over a period of two to three months and interviews with parents were conducted, children were filmed using tablets and in some cases parents collected data between visits using their own smartphones and/ or a ‘Go-Pro’ chestcam left by the researcher.

In Phase 3, twelve children in Foundation Stage 1 and 2, aged 3-5, were filmed as they used a series of apps. The apps used were those identified as the top 10 favourite apps in the survey conducted in Phase 1, along with a selection of other apps that were appropriate for the age group, including augmented reality apps.

In Phase 4, the data from Phase 2 and 3 were analysed in order to determine how far the apps promoted play and creativity.

In the full report, the research methods are outlined in further detail. The report for the children’s media industry details those findings that offer information about the way in which apps can be designed to promote play and creativity.

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